Depression, they say, feels like a dark bottomless pit and that suicide feels like a reprieve. It was their only way to bury the pain.
I wanted to end my pain so badly
In January last year, I was working at a very high stress job and was in an emotionally abusive relationship. I felt that at 28 I hadn’t accomplished what I was supposed to. I was always anxious and went to work only to avoid losing my job.
My first suicide attempt was in March. I wanted to throw myself on a motorbike busy road in Kasarani and get hit by one of them. Coincidentally, on that night there was a football match happening and just as I was about to launch myself on the road, a guy who was as much a football fan as I was called me on my cell telling me that Chelsea had won. And he kept me on the phone asking why I sounded distraught. He saved my life on that night.
I always felt that my life wasn't worth anything. I am a single dad to a 10-year-old girl, but when I wanted to take my life I wasn't thinking about her. A few months later, in October, the need to end my life came all over again.
I was jobless, my savings had run out and I had no friends to speak of. I wanted to end my pain so bad, so I swallowed all the painkillers I had been prescribed for some back pain I was having. I waited for my death but nothing happened.
In January this year, I got a note from my landlord telling me to pay off the three months' rent arrears I owed. I had no money. I had just had black tea and buns for supper and I was at the end of my rope. I was feeling defeated. I felt helpless, didn’t know who to turn to or where to go and I also didn’t want anyone to know what I was going through.
My daughter was in boarding school at the time. I could only focus on the pain at that moment and that I wanted it to end. I went to the balcony where we hung clothes and stood on the edge. There are no rails. When I tried to jump, instead of falling forward, I landed on my backside on the balcony where I stood.
After the botched attempt, it occurred to me that I was leaving my little girl all alone and it was so unfair to her. I’m not suicidal any more, but there are moments when I almost wish I hadn't survived. I know that there are so many reasons to enjoy and live life to the fullest.
Dad committed suicide two years after my attempt
It all started as a teenager. My parents were having lots problems. My father was an alcoholic who beat my mother a lot. I was always worried about my mum. I always felt sad and unhappy and I thought something was wrong with me, like my mind was sick. I hated myself, felt unworthy and like my life had no meaning. I think I was depressed.
I was in St Georges Girls’ High School when one of our Christian Union leaders who was in Form One ran away from school and we were told that she had committed suicide after discovering she was pregnant.
It was shocking, and that was the first time I had heard of someone committing suicide by taking a lot of anti-malarial tablets. It also planted an idea in my mind. I was so angry at life that I didn’t care about my family. I thought they would be better off without me. I even thought my parents hated me, so no one would care.
When I went home the chemist would not sell to me Malariaquin tablets, so I went to the kiosk and bought all the Piritons that the guy had. I mixed them with a cocktail of others from my mother’s cabinet and swallowed all of them.
I then went outside and sat with a friend, and when I started feeling drowsy I told the friend goodbye, locked myself in my room and slept, thinking I would never wake up. In the middle of the night I woke up, very drowsy, but well, still breathing.
I didn’t tell a soul about it. Two years later, when I was 17 and in Form Four, my dad committed suicide. That spiraled me further into depression and I was shocked that he succeeded at what I had failed. I also realised that depression was the reason he used to drink so much. It was very painful for us as a family.
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The dark cloud of depression hung around me but I didn’t try this again. I got [pregnant and had my daughter at 23 and this pushed the idea somewhat out of mind. After university, I sought professional help. I wanted to get better. I was diagnosed with severe chronic depression and severe anxiety disorder.
The medication however gave me memory lapses, fatigue and made me sadder. The counselling sessions, though helpful, were too expensive. Church however saved me. Knowing that God loved me, changed my life.
My beliefs have evolved since then, but what it gave me at that time was a sense of purpose, knowing that my being in this world was not a mistake. Before then I did not understand why I was alive and I had needed someone to tell me that I am loved and worthy. It renewed my mind.
Now, when I feel the darkness creeping up I seek help immediately. I write about it and talk to people and I find that it helps just telling someone how I feel. Depression lies to you, tells you that you are worthless, do not matter and you feel things that are not true. but you do not know it when you are deep in it.
Now I realise when I have low moments that what I am feeling is just temporary, and people help me realise that when I cannot.
I know I am susceptible to depression because it is common in my family. So now I focus so much on ensuring I do not fall back in it. We have a history of depression and suicide on my paternal side of the family.
I wasn't a difficult teen, just a child in deep pain
I grew up in a violent home. I watched my father beat up my mother. I would get caught up in it too because it happened right in front of me. I remember feeling lost and alone. I did not have a name for it then but I now know that I got depressed.
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I also built impenetrable walls within me. I can identify this dark feeling of depression, of intense sadness and suicidal thoughts because I have been through it again three times; At 16, at 25 after a nasty break up and at 29.
At 16, I went through extreme turmoil. I was always tired and experienced these heavy emotions. My parents were constantly fighting and when I was expelled from school in Form Two due to behavioural issues, I decided to run away from home.
I ended up on the streets of Nairobi where the commercial sex workers would protect me from city council askaris and would shoplift food from supermarkets.
Eventually I went back home, after being caught stealing milk from a supermarket and getting beaten up for it. The suicidal thoughts first began after my dad insinuated that I was smoking weed. I felt very misunderstood and thought taking away my life would help me because I wouldn't have to face all that pain anymore.
I decided that I would go to Mombasa where I would do it since nobody knew me there. I wrote my goodbye notes, to my parents and my then two-year old sister. I then stole the travel money from dad and set off.
However, being a teenage boy, I decided to detour to the home of a girl I liked. And the girl's parents insisted on informing my parents of my whereabouts. And that is how my plan was thwarted.
The last thing a suicidal person ever thinks about is how their death would affect others. Quit telling them that they are selfish, it just feels like you are downplaying their pain. My pain was deep, and by the time a child runs away from home, they are really not OK.
My father was a disciplinarian who thought I was just a tough-headed teenager, yet I had totally given up and just wanted to die.
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I am not suicidal now but I get bouts of depressive moments. Writing and listening to a lot of music slows down the pain, and I have been seeing therapists. I am also around friends a lot and I help other people like me out.
ANJEYO'S DOS AND DON'TS WHEN HANDLING A SUICIDAL PERSON
1.Do give them a safe space where they can speak about their pain and not be judged.
2. Do keep confidentiality. Never bring up their problems with other people unless they have told you to bring it up.
3. Do be there. Sometimes someone just needs an outlet. Let them rant to you. Be present, and not just physically present. Invest in a relationship with them. Hurt people will always show signs that they are hurting.
4. Don't quote scriptures. Do not send them to church unless it is to a professional counselor who is based in the church.
5. Don't tell them they’ll be fine. Don’t try to belittle their problems by telling them about a worse or a bigger problem. When they are opening up, do not interrupt them. It shows you are not listening.